Spatial and territorial boundaries are laws we learn early in childhood. We play games that insinuate ownership of a territory, such as “King of the Mountain” as Nonverbal Behavior in Interpersonal Relations by Richmond reminds us. King of the Mountain “usually involves one individual claiming a piece of high ground, such as a mound or small hill, and protecting it from approaching invaders from all directions. The object of the game is to keep control of the mountain by fighting off intruders” (125). As we get older, we play games in athletics such as “King of the Court” in tennis, where the object of the game is to win your way to the top court and maintain your territory there. By learning these actions of “turf defense” as children, we are growing a society of territorial adults. In lunch rooms in high schools, each clique has their own table, never to be touched by another soul. Also, consequently, we grow up to be very territorial of people—thinking we can own a person in a relationship. And we apply harsh consequences to anyone who steps on “our turf.”
But my thought is, maybe we do not learn these actions through games or teaching. I think that defending one’s territory is an instinctive behavior, just as it is in every other animal. The difference between us and monkeys, dogs, and birds, which are all very territorial, is the way we are able to handle our conflict with the person intruding our territory. We can fight our instincts.
We can choose to be violent or we can choose to take a higher route. God gave us a choice in the way we react to the intrusiveness of others. I aim to follow the ultimate example, Jesus, who chose to love his enemies. How can you personally choose to lovingly react to a “turf offender” today, this week, or anytime in your future? Food for thought! 🙂